Chancellor's Blog: Martin Luther King Jr. Day is opportunity to remember and to serve

| Chancellor James Schmidt

As happens every year, next week UW-Eau Claire will close on the third Monday of January, the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And while technically Jan. 21 will be a “day off” for our campus community and others, I hope many will find time that day to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and to serve others in his honor.

To be sure, days off were few for Dr. King as he spread his message about achieving a dream of justice and equality for all. And, given the racial injustices that persist across our nation today, including right here in our community, that message is as relevant now as it was in the 1960s. The work he began must continue — and what better day for us to remember and to serve than on the holiday named for this great civil rights leader?

There is no shortage of inspiration for continuing this work when we look to Dr. King’s words. For me, this quote from his speech titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” is particularly moving:

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

Dr. King was seeking to restore nonviolence to the civil rights movement in Memphis when he delivered these words on April 3, 1968 — just one day before his assassination. He was steadfast to the end in his commitment to creating a nation where people of all backgrounds contribute to a better life for everyone.

In our ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive campus environment where all can thrive, UW-Eau Claire will sponsor or co-sponsor several opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to recall Dr. King’s dream and be of service in our community:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, noon-4 p.m. Jan. 21: Meet at The Community Table to share a meal together, then serve with other volunteers at various non-profits in the region. Register online or by emailing ECLIPSE@ uwec.edu.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Event, 6 p.m. Jan. 21: All ages will gather at this communitywide event at St. James the Greater Catholic Church. The ceremony will include readings from King’s works, music and multimedia presentations about the history of the civil rights movement. Learn more.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration (on campus), 5 p.m. Feb. 6: This event, sponsored by our Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Student Affairs, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Black Student Alliance, is held during the first week of our spring semester so we have an opportunity to celebrate Dr. King along with students. The gathering in Schofield Auditorium will include musical performances, the presentation of the university’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Leadership Award, and a keynote address delivered by civil rights activist Joanne Bland.

Please plan to participate in one or all of these events. Together we can do our part to continue the important work started by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Top photo caption: UW-Eau Claire student Collis McCloud Jr. read from one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches during the university's 2018 on-campus event celebrating King's vision and legacy.

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